John Wolf, who heads the city’s traffic operations department, said the city is acting on a budget resolution passed months earlier when drawing up the 2015 budget.
“There was a council resolution passed at budget last year to eliminate it effective January 1st 2016,” he said.
The elimination of the one-hour free parking – an incentive to get people to shop and dine downtown – is part of a raft of changes to parking fees that will also see an increase in parking rates by 25 cents an hour.
But Horwitz said the city had agreed not to eliminate the one-hour free parking until a downtown parking study, still ongoing, has been completed.
“We decided that we’re against stopping the one-hour free parking until and when a parking strategy for the entire downtown is completed,” he said.
However, he said, the BIA supported raising the hourly rate in the garages by 25 cents “if they continue to keep one-hour free parking.”
Alarmed by the fact the change is taking place in a little more than two weeks Horwitz said he has contacted the city councillor representing the downtown, Rino Bortolin, with hopes of preventing the action from taking place.
The first hour of free parking goes back decades.
Wolf said he wasn’t working in the parking division at the time if was first approved.
“I’m assuming it was to encourage short term visitations to go to the garage as opposed to using the on street meters,” he said.
Wolf said there were various members of the public who spoke at the 2015 budget talks on the matter.
Horwitz said everyone who spoke was against it.
“Anybody who spoke was an opponent, nobody spoke for it,” he said.
He said the BIA had a consultant who spoke against it.
So although council considered eliminating the free first hour Horwitz said that wasn’t done.
“I remember the council meeting and they decided to put a hold on it until they get back the study,” he said.
“We were under the impression that a deal would be struck and we had consultations with the city regarding a slight increase in exchange for keeping the one-hour free parking,” he said.
There are about 576 spaces in the Goyeau Street garage and 348 in the Pelissier Street garage.
Wolf said that he had not received any complaints about the January 1st implementation.
Photo: Courtesy Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association